Saturday, 16 July 2016

Coleus... no, wait? Solenostemon... no, wait! Plectranthus!

A conversation at Hampton court reminded me of this the other day. It was one of those rambling taxonomy type discussions which I adore that are basically one person saying that a plant has changed its name and the other saying "yes I believe its ***** now". Then maybe a third person jumps in with an "Actually its called **** now!" This is recieved with a series of tuts, groans, annoyance, questions and then finally acceptance. Like a much less serious version of the "5 stages of Grief" more like a "5 stages of vauge irritation".
Anyway, the plant in question has always been a favourite of mine to grow from seed, so easy! It was called Coleus now its called Solenostemon.... no, wait.... now its called Plectranthus!

"What! Oh for gods sake! well IM still calling it Coleus!" ....said in a loud huffy voice

Its true, some Coleus are were included in the solenostemon classification but the ones we mostly think of are currently classified as Plectranthus now (and hopefully will stay that way!) In fact there is only one plant currently still classed as Solenostemon and thats Solenostemon sylvatica (name accepted as of 18/4/2012) which has in the past been called....

 Synonym(s) Homotypic
 Coleus silvaticus Gürke (1894)
Synonym(s) Heterotypic
=Coleus autrani Briq. (1894)
=Solenostemon autranii (Briq.) J. K. Morton (1998)
=Plectranthus glandulosus Britten
=Coleus darfurensis R.D. Good (1924)
=Coleus ostinii Chiov. (1911)
=Coleus punctatus Baker (1895)
=Solenostemon zambesiacus Baker (1900)

These pics, above, were taken whilst the Genus was still classified as Solenostemon.... just!

 Anyway! Back to Coleus... No, Plectranthus!
The one most people think of with Coleus is Coleus blumei (Plectranthus scutellarioides) This is the one with the amazing coloured foliage, sometimes having deeply indented leaves, it can in fact grow to be a small shrub (2Metres) but is thought of in the UK as being either a bedding plant or sometimes a house plant. Native to south east Asia and Malaysia it prefers dappled shade and temperatures around an average of 27 °C (80.6 °F) but will withstand temps as low as 12 °C, although theyre REALLY not happy about it!

To me, they're a plant of my childhood and later I grew them to decorate the bench in the Alitex at Ryton. They'd kind of fallen out of fashion at that point but I'm convinced they're making a comeback! (Crosses fingers)
Light levels are a predetermining factor for leaf colour, higher light levels will give greater colour saturation. The coloured parts of the leaves have high levels of anthocyanins, water-soluble, flavonoid biosynthetic pigments, these give the reds,oranges & purple colourations. The more anthocyanins present the lower the levels of clorophyll (The chemical that turns leaves green).

They like a lot of water! Don't allow them to dry out, they wilt quickly and it stresses them leaving them susceptible to powdery mildew and encouraging production of flowers. Which although pretty in their own right are not what you want from this plant. Pinch out flower buds to encourage production of new leaves. Seed production of named varieties is difficult as they are so prolific (much like Aquilega's) it tends to come instead from vegetative propagation, easy enough with this plant. As a beginner though seeds are always fun as theres an element of surprise!
Sow on the surface, as the tiny seeds need the light to germinate and keep moist by using either a glass sheet over or clingfilm is a good substitute.

As an aside (and not a reccomendation in any way!) they are known to contain Psychoactive substances and have been used as hallucinogenics. This has not been studied by science though and I DO NOT suggest you try this out.

I was lucky enough to enjoy a tour, by me old mukka from Ryton, Vicki Cooke who I worked at Ryton with (I owe her a veg garden blog!) love that woman... in a purely platonic way of course, of the glasshouses at Hampton Court, where they hold a large collection of Plectranthus and thats where the pictures in this blog post have come from. I've tried to keep this one simple in many ways as it would be very tempting to waffle on about the importance of Nomenclature (I've covered that subject admirably before) and breeding (I dont know enough to tell you confidently). I would however highly recommend growing these delightful, rewarding plants.

 Just for fun!
Disclaimer: My idea of fun may vary greatly from your idea of fun
Heres a few of the now defunct synonyms you may still be using for plectranthus....
  • Calchas acuminatus (Benth.) P.V.Heath
  • Calchas atropurpureus (Benth.) P.V.Heath
  • Calchas crispipilus (Merr.) P.V.Heath
  • Calchas scutellarioides (L.) P.V.Heath
  • Coleus acuminatus Benth.
  • Coleus atropurpureus Benth.
  • Coleus blancoi Benth.
  • Coleus blumei Benth.
  • Coleus crispipilus (Merr.) Merr.
  • Coleus formosanus Hayata
  • Coleus gaudichaudii Briq.
  • Coleus gibbsiae S.Moore
  • Coleus grandifolius Benth.
  • Coleus grandifolius Blanco nom. illeg.
  • Coleus hybridus Cobeau
  • Coleus × hybridus Voss
  • Coleus igolotorum Briq.
  • Coleus ingratus (Blume) Benth.
  • Coleus integrifolius Elmer
  • Coleus laciniatus (Blume) Benth.
  • Coleus multiflorus Benth.
  • Coleus pubescens Merr.
  • Coleus pumilus Blanco
  • Coleus rehneltianus A.Berger
  • Coleus savannicola K.Schum.
  • Coleus scutellarioides (L.) Benth.
  • Coleus secundiflorus Benth.
  • Coleus verschaffeltii Lem.
  • Coleus zschokkei Merr.
  • Germanea nudiflora Poir.
  • Majana acuminata (Benth.) Kuntze
  • Majana blancoi (Benth.) Kuntze
  • Majana grandifolia (Benth.) Kuntze
  • Majana multiflora (Benth.) Kuntze
  • Majana pumila (Blanco) Kuntze
  • Majana scutellariodes (L.) Kuntze
  • Majana secundiflora (Benth.) Kuntze
  • Ocimum peltatum Schweigg. ex Schrank
  • Ocimum scutellarioides L.
  • Perilla nankinensis Wender.
  • Plectranthus aromaticus Roxb.
  • Plectranthus blumei (Benth.) Launert
  • Plectranthus ingratus Blume
  • Plectranthus laciniatus Blume
  • Plectranthus nudiflorus (Poir.) Willd.
  • Plectranthus scutellarioides Blume nom. illeg.
  • Solenostemon blumei (Benth.) M.Gómez
  • Solenostemon scutellarioides (L.) Codd
and heres the website I use when checking my nomenclature...
the plant

Organic Veg the No-Dig way (repost from 2013)

Originally written for the Landshare Blog way back in 2013, this was subsequently reposted in several locations and the information included went on to make up part of the talks I give to groups about growing vegetables Organically and using the No-Dig method. I thought you all may like to see what we did there.
Apologies for the quality of the pics!

Our no-dig veg garden 6 months in...

An unusual year
So, halfway through the year, ok a little over but close and how is our No Dig system progressing? Some of you who visited us in previous years will hopefully be pleasantly surprised at how we’ve changed. We started converting our field over to 4ft wide beds at the end of last year and putting in place a system of composting and mulching them. This is how things looked in 2012…
The beds being converted over…
and in 2013…
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Our team spent a lot of time getting the beds converted, and there is still more work to do, but so far we really are seeing the benefits. Working in this method allows you to grow veg in a more consistent and easier to manage way. There are some crops that at present we are not attempting, such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips. We will grow these again in the future once we have built up a decent soil depth but we are having some enormous successes with other crops such as Kohl rabi, Onions and Leeks.
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Kohl rabi ‘Azur Star’
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Onion ‘Bedforshire Champion’
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Leek ‘Northern Lights’
We also converted our tunnels over to the No Dig system last year, the soil had become exceedingly depleted and had no structure to it at all. We had started to find that even our Tomatoes were struggling to produce decent vines, so copious amounts of manure were added. Its worth bearing in mind when trying this yourself, that not all crops love a high Nitrogen soil and that it can sometimes cause a chemical imbalance, locking up certain nutrients like Magnesium. In a covered environment this can be easily dealt with but when growing organically its best to avoid overfeeding plants in the first place. We planned our crop rotation very carefully to avoid problems and we are getting great results despite the cold start to the year. Below is a picture taken in late July 2011 showing how stressed our Tomatoes were.

and now….
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We are proud to be harvesting from them already and the difference in growth is phenomenal!
We also are providing our onsite restaurant with delicious organically grown Cucumbers, and this year we are growing 4 different types. In the cutest cucumber contest its a close run race between Iznik F1 and Passander F1, producing a perfect Cucumber for your lunch box! Or for something a little more substantial you might want to try Louisa F1 or Camilla F1.
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‘Iznik F1’
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‘Louisa F1’
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We have been having an enormously abundant year for fruit as well. In late April I despaired that the weather would improve and by late May I had almost given up, but it hasn’t done our fruit any harm whatsoever. We have produced over 30 kilos of Gooseberries alone, all to be cooked up into yummy desserts by our Restaurant. Not to mention all the Strawberries, Redcurrants, Blackcurrants and soon to be available from our Farmers Market stall, Raspberries! Below is a picture of our Loganberries and in the distance the North Downs.
One thing gardeners may want to keep an eye out for at this time of year is Gooseberry Sawfly. Able to decimate your plants in a day, they don’t just eat your Gooseberries they will go for your Red & White currants too! Organically you have very few options open to you as they must be dealt with quickly. The best and easiest option is to lay a old sheet under your bush and shake/flick the leaves till the horrible little blighters fall to the ground. When you think you’ve cleared one area move the sheet to the next and repeat process. Here’s the grim bit, once your plants are clean of the larvae and your sheet is covered in them you can then deal with the pest in an appropriate manner. How you choose to do this is up to you, but I suggest you don’t release them back to freedom. I would normally expect them a tad earlier in the year but it appears our unseasonable weather has knocked them out of kilter too.
I could include a Thousand more beautiful pictures of our lovely Veg. Garden as each one tells its own story but I run the risk of revealing my inner Nerd. Why not come and join us instead? See for yourself this unique venture into vegetable gardening and admire the best view in Kent …. well unless you climb to the top of the Tower that is.
Louise – Senior Vegetable Gardener

Disclaimer: Things will have changed a lot since this was written, so if you visit now do not expect to see things described above. Fruit varieties & placement may have changed as i believe bed layouts have also.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Hampton Court 2016 in pictures, no words!

When it comes to blogs I'm not a fast writer. I like to name every plant and give some information, perhaps even a link to another site. This takes me time. Add to that I try to write about 5 at once.... its self inflicted...
This time I thought I'd try a different approach and just show you my visual experience of this years Hampton court show, so without further ado I present ....

Hampton Court 2016